Just You Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
By Tony Scanlan
“Just wait till your father gets home!” A threat made throughout the years by mums everywhere. One not appreciated by the dad though, as it makes him out to be the bad guy, the enforcer.
However, it doesn’t just have to be ‘Dad’ that comes home to do the dispensing of justice. Dads may find themselves saying “Just wait ’til your mother gets home!” They will surely smile to themselves when they say it, though.
When you think about it, it’s not such a bad idea to wait before administering punishment when little Joey breaks the window after he was told NOT to play with the ball inside the house.
Or even to get the other partner (whatever sex) to hear a calm description of the offence and even an explanation from the accused before deciding any consequences. The worst thing a parent can do is over react when they are angry, by lashing out or imposing a punishment they have no intention of carrying out.
-”RIGHT! No TV for a year!” …”Sure, whatever you say, Mum/Dad.” What do you do if you don’t have a partner to call on to help administer justice, or like most people, you’re just trying to find a balance between being a tyrant and a benevolent dictator?
It’s a pity there isn’t a parents code that states the punishments that are appropriate for each indiscretion- a legal system, only for kids.
At least this would give the parent a chance to cool down while they consult the guide (and so they wouldn’t have to resort to the JWTYFGH ploy). Imagine discovering Junior has drawn all over the wall, you go to the book, look up “drawing on the wall”- it might tell you “for the first offence, let off with a warning, but child must clean wall”.
“For second offence…..”. but what should the punishment be for the second offence? That’s where the guide book idea falls down. Everyone has different ideas on what should come next.
It would take fifty years to get people to agree on such a book, and by then it would be out of date and they would have to start over. Not to mention the fact that every culture would have to have it’s own book. This is a point in itself worth considering.
Parents set out to teach their children the difference between right and wrong, yet the definition of what is right and wrong varies greatly between cultures, communities, classes, even families.
Maybe it’s not really about what’s right or wrong, but what we will tolerate. Children, being the inquisitive eager creatures they are, constantly challenge the boundaries of what they can, and are allowed, to do. Parents set rules, children break them to see what happens.
It’s how they learn. Unfortunately some things in our world are so dangerous to learn about them this way is impossible. Like crossing the road, fire, electricity, poisons, even tooth decay. These things require unwavering obedience from children.
It’s relatively simple to protect a baby or toddler from these dangers, but what do you do if the child, as he or she gets older, insists on investigating these interesting things? Running across the road, playing with matches, sticking things in power points- these things are a parents worst nightmare.
If a child attempts one of these forbidden adventures (assuming the child survives the experience) what do you do about it- a smack? sent to his/her room? Incentives NOT to do it again? Make the punishment fit the crime?
One father, a few years ago, tried to ‘let the punishment fit the crime’ and pressed the hot part of a lighter on a child’s skin- obviously he was trying to get the child to learn from his experience but this earned him a stint in jail- he needed to think about his punishment a bit more – he did exactly what he was supposed to prevent- burning the child.
That most children actually DON’T do these things when they are told not to is the amazing thing.
Whatever system of punishment, bribery or blackmail parents come up with, it seems to have to be one worked out by trial and error by parents to fit their own children- as they grow up allowing them to eagerly face the challenges the world has to offer but at the same time respect the dangers that are in it.
And that’s the same for parents in New Zealand, Russia or the Congo.
Next: Boys At School